Interrogating Corruption Risk in Voluntary Carbon Markets

Analysing anti-corruption evidence in relation to trading in voluntary carbon markets and the implications for climate security.

Voluntary markets for carbon offsets are growing rapidly. By some estimates, they will need to grow 15-fold by 2030 to support the investment needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. These markets allow carbon-emitting companies to purchase credits to offset emissions, with credits awarded to projects that remove atmospheric carbon dioxide or reduce future emissions.

While the scope for corruption in these markets has long been a concern, corruption risks are evolving as the sector rapidly expands. This project will analyse the evolving risks inherent in the sector’s verification, certification and anti-money laundering/know your customer (AML/KYC) requirements. In doing so, we hope to make a targeted contribution to a pressing gap in the anti-corruption evidence base.

Aims and objectives

The project’s overall objective is to strengthen the evidence on corruption risks linked to verification and certification in voluntary carbon markets and to use this evidence to inform effective, feasible anti-corruption interventions and regulatory change, so that carbon trading is better able to support (rather than undermine) climate action.

It aims to address research questions that have not yet received sufficient attention, as part of an original, problem-driven project designed to generate actionable new anti-corruption evidence.

Key questions that will be explored include:

  • How can corruption best be conceptualised in relation to voluntary markets for carbon offsets?
  • What verification and certification procedures are in place for the major voluntary carbon markets? What role do AML/KYC controls play in mitigating corruption risks, and how effective are these controls?
  • What corruption risks exist around gaps in these procedures, and how do these risks (and their exploitation) vary by location (with a focus on two case-study countries)?
  • How effective are current measures to mitigate these risks, and what changes in verification and certification procedures does the evidence generated by this project support?
  • How can a better understanding of corruption risks support the development and application of more effective AML/KYC and other controls in practice?


A further objective is to ensure that practical application and operational relevance act as guiding principles throughout the project cycle, with an active policy/practitioner working group supporting research from beginning to end. Beyond addressing pressing evidence gaps, the project aims to feed into the design of practical anti-corruption interventions.

Latest publications

View all publications